America has a very individualistic culture.  It has a culture where the emphasis or priority is placed on the individual instead of the group.  We, Americans, are oriented around the self.  Individualism sees the individual as its main focus, and values independence and self reliance.  With Individualism, we don’t want society to get in the way of our goals, desires, and self expression. Individualism can be seen as another worldview.

There are several popular slogans that emphasize Individualism in society.  Here are a few

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Follow your heart.
  • You do you.
  • You be you.
  • You need to find yourself.

Notice the ‘you’ in all of these slogans.  They are saying what is most important is yourself.  That means your freedom, your happiness, and how you define and express yourself is the highest good.  Everything else is secondary.  It is all about you.  Advertisers know this.  Their ads promote sayings like “you deserve it”, “you need it”, and “we will take good care of you”.

What are the beliefs of Individualism? You decide what is right for you. You are the ultimate authority.  External authorities are to be considered, questioned, and/or rejected. There should be nothing that restricts your freedom or your self-expression, so you can be truly authentic.  You are effectively an autonomous person.  Tolerance of others is defined around accepting the identities and expressions of others.  An individualist believes that if everyone did this, the world would be a better place, because humans are inherently good.

There are some good things about our individualistic society.  We tend to put value on each and every person.  Our Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal”. That comes from our Christian heritage, because Christianity says each and every one of us are of very high value in the sight of God for God fully and completely loves each and every one of us.

Unfortunately, we all have this tendency to be self-centered. The worldview of Individualism promotes this self-centeredness. Many times we are willing to do whatever in order to fulfill our goals and desires.  And many times our goals, our desires, and our self-expressions are not good for society as a whole or for our neighbor next door.  The problem is we are not inherently good.  We need boundaries. We need to have restrictions on our desires, our goals, and our self-expression, so to protect others.

Technology has made us less dependent upon each other.  In general, technology supports Individualism. Many times, we do not need to interact with others.  We type our own letters and emails.  We purchase stuff from the comfort of our own home.  We research ideas and concepts without attending a lecture or debate.  Technology has made this possible, and it can be very isolating. 

I think Individualism has created some of society’s problems.  We are very divided as a country.  We have done our own thinking and will not listen to the opposing side because we are the authority for ourselves.  We do not want to be ordinary, so we find unique ways to express ourselves and define ourselves (think gender fluidity).  We hide our real selves, so to craft a self we think people will like.  We leave relationships because at the moment we are not feeling the “love”.  We do not worry about the long term consequences of our decisions and our actions on ourselves and others, but we rather expect society to welcome our authentic self.

I think many of today’s problems boil down to the “Me First” mentality of Individualism.  Because of the “Me First” mentality, Americans have lost sight of the needs of others.  They will only deal with the needs of others only when it does not negatively impact themselves.  God is not on the throne of their heart.  They are.  I believe American culture has taken the individual too far.  We need to be less selfish and more concerned with being good members of society.

6 thoughts on “Individualism

  1. Don’t forget the classic ‘70s McDonald’s slogan: “Have it Your Way … Have it Your Way.”

    There’s also the ever-popular song “My Way”, by Paul Anka. Many other artists have also sung this song:

    “A Mi Manera” – Vicente Fernández · 1983
    “My Way” – Frank Sinatra · 1969
    “My Way” – Andy Williams · 1969
    “A Mi Manera” – Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz · 1970
    “My Way” – Shirley Bassey · 1970
    “My Way” – Tom Jones · 1971
    “My Way” – Elvis Presley · 1973
    “My Way” – Richard Clayderman · 1980
    “My Way” – Fausto Papetti · 1982
    “My Way” – Nina Simone · 1989
    “My way” – Sid Vicious
    “My way” – Mike Brant
    “My Way” – Robbie Williams · 2000
    “My Way” – Il Divo · 2004
    “My Way” – Christopher Lee · 2006
    “My Way” – Daniel Boaventura · 2014
    “My Way” – Seth MacFarlane · 2016
    “My Way” – Il Volo · 2016

    The lyrics go like this:

    And now, the end is near,
    And so I face the final curtain.
    My friends, I’ll say it clear,
    I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
    I’ve lived a life that’s full,
    I traveled each and every highway,
    But more, much more than this,
    I did it my way.

    Regrets, I’ve had a few,
    But then again, too few to mention.
    I did what I had to do,
    And saw it through without exemption.
    I planned each chartered course,
    Each careful step along the byway,
    But more, much more than this,
    I did it my way.

    Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew,
    When I bit off more than I could chew,
    But through it all, when there was doubt,
    I ate it up and spit it out,
    I faced it all and I stood tall,
    And did it my way.

    I’ve loved, laughed and cried,
    I’ve had my fill, my share of losing,
    And now, as tears subside,
    I find it all so amusing,
    To think I did all that,
    And may I say, not in a shy way,
    Oh no, no, not me,
    I did it my way.

    For what is a man, what has he got,
    If not himself then he has not.
    To say all the things he truly feels,
    And not the words of one who kneels,
    The record shows, I took the blows,
    But I did it my way.

    And then there’s also the phrase “the self-made man.” Self made?? Really?? Sure, our own efforts do count for something, but let’s take a step back and zoom the lens out a little wider to get our narrow field of view off ourselves for just a moment.

    Who made you? Certainly you didn’t make you. You couldn’t, because you didn’t know how to make you, and you didn’t pre-exist yourself so you could have been around to make you … which of course would be a paradoxical impossibility. And who endowed you with your gifts and talents, and your mind? And who enabled you to produce wealth? The answer can only be that God did all this. He is the only one who knew how to make everything out of nothing, how to make a habitable planet, how to make other beings, and the only one who pre-existed everything and everyone, and was around before the dawn of time so he could get the ball rolling by saying, “Let there be …” It is to him we owe everything, even our very existence. And in turn, it is to him we also owe our complete obedience … that is, if we want to live with him forever in the next life, in a perfect and beautiful world free of sin, hardship, and brokenness of any kind.

    Anything we accomplish and acquire is only because of God having enabled us to do it or have it. We should always “remember the Lord our God, for it is He who is giving us power to make wealth…” (paraphrased from Deut. 8:18). So “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. … When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Prov. 16:3,7)

    The writer of “My Way” boastfully claims that he did everything his way, in his time and manner, and that he planned each chartered course and each careful step along the byway, and that in his own strength he was able to eat up and spit out even more than he could chew, and was able to face it all and stand tall and say, “not in a shy way”, “and not in the words of one who kneels” … “I did it my way.”

    Jesus said in John 15:5 that without him, we can do nothing. Not only did he create us in the first place, and give us all our strengths and faculties, but he also protects us from evil when we are unaware. There is an entire realm of demonic fallen angels, any one of whom would delight in taking us out of this world prematurely, preferably in a way that would be the most horrible and that would do the greatest damage to us spiritually. We normally do not see the supernatural realm, so we simply have no idea who’s out there, lurking unseen, “walking around as a lion, seeking whom he might devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We have absolutely no natural defenses of our own against these powerful fallen beings, at least some of whom apparently have telekinetic powers (as per certain verses in Job 1), superhuman strength that can even manifest itself through much smaller and weaker human bodies that they can possess and control (Mark 5:4 / Luke 8:29), the ability to teleport themselves and others anywhere almost instantly (Matt. 4:5), and also pass between the natural and supernatural realms at will (Job 1). We are TOTALLY outmatched against beings like these, and are defenseless against them on our own. This is why other unseen angels are given charge over us to guard us in all our ways. (Ps. 91:11)

    Even our daily affairs are not entirely our own. King David wrote in Ps. 37:23-24, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Solomon later echoed this more than once in Proverbs, saying that “the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps,” (Prov. 16:9), adding later that, “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord. How then can man understand his way?” (Prov. 20:24)

    So do not be arrogant, and “do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Prov. 27:1) James said in 4:13-16, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”

    Jeff Lemke

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s